The 2024 Pulitzer Prizes were announced on May 6 in New York City. Read our reviews of this year's winning works of fiction, general nonfiction, history, biography, and memoir and autobiography.

Night Watch

Jayne Anne Phillips. Knopf, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-0-451-49333-0
Exquisite attention to detail propels this superb meditation on broken families in post–Civil War West Virginia from Phillips (Lark and Termite). In 1874, 12-year-old ConaLee and her mute mother, Eliza, are delivered to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston by an abusive man known to ConaLee as Papa, who has sold off the pair’s possessions. Papa assures ConaLee that the asylum will cure Eliza; before he departs, he also reveals he is not ConaLee’s father. Mother and daughter are welcomed by night watchman O’Shea, a Union Army veteran who lost his eye in battle. As Eliza’s health improves, Phillips oscillates between 1874 and 1864 to piece together narrative puzzles, explaining Eliza’s quiet nature, the origins of Papa in their lives, the identity and fate of ConaLee’s real father, and O’Shea’s injury. A profound feeling of loss haunts the novel, and Phillips conveys a strong sense of place (describing the asylum, she writes, “There was noise and commotion, all of a piece, like off-pitch music”). The bruised and turbulent postbellum era comes alive in Phillips’s page-turning affair. Agent: Lynn Nesbit, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (Sept.)

A Day in the Life of Abed Salama: Anatomy of a Jerusalem Tragedy

Nathan Thrall. Metropolitan, $29.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-250-85497-1
Journalist Thrall (The Only Language They Understand) offers a unique window onto the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in this captivating profile of Abed Salama, a Palestinian phone company worker and political activist, on the day in February 2012 when his five-year-old son, Malid, was among the seven people killed in a traffic accident near Jerusalem. The driver of the semitrailer that crashed into the bus carrying Malid’s kindergarten class was blamed for the accident and sentenced to 30 months in prison, but investigators failed to spell out other factors that made the accident and its aftermath worse, such as badly maintained Palestinian infrastructure (the road was congested and poorly lit); the barrier wall dividing Jerusalem from surrounding Palestinian neighborhoods (checkpoints delayed first responders); and a bureaucratic system intended to restrict Palestinians like Salama (because his ID indicated that he had served time in prison—a stint resulting from his affiliation with the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine—Salama was unable to cross into Jerusalem in search of his son). Through extensive interviews and research, Thrall reconstructs the day of the accident, interweaving stories of Jewish and Palestinian people involved, including a doctor and a teacher who helped rescue some of the children. But he also dives into the past, recounting Salama’s and the rescuers’ life stories and the history of the construction of the barrier wall. It’s a heart-wrenching portrait of an unequal society. (Oct.)

No Right to an Honest Living: The Struggles of Boston’s Black Workers in the Civil War Era

Jacqueline Jones. Basic, $35 (544p) ISBN 978-1-5416-1979-1
Boston’s reputation as an abolitionist hotbed in the decades before the Civil War belies the “casual cruelty” its Black residents endured, according to this eye-opening history. Bancroft Prize winner Jones (Goddess of Anarchy) notes that Black Bostonians “enjoyed rights denied to their counterparts in other parts of the North,” but claims that the city’s abolitionists, while eloquent and well-organized, had limited sway. Even fiery antislavery activist William Lloyd Garrison refrained from advocating for improved conditions for the city’s Black workforce, lest he alienate potential supporters of abolitionism. Though few white Bostonians publicly expressed support for enslavement, many residents, “Brahmin” aristocrats and Irish immigrants alike, refused to accept people of color as their equals, according to Jones. Denied entry to “conventional workplaces,” many Black Bostonians found jobs as “rat catchers, youthful errand-runners for professional gamblers, dance-hall musicians, and scammers.” Expertly drawing from court records, newspaper articles, and other primary sources, Jones interweaves fine-grained accounts of internal debates within the antislavery movement with poignant depictions of the struggles and triumphs of ordinary Black Bostonians. The result is a nuanced and noteworthy addition to the history of race relations in America. (Jan.)

King: A Life

Jonathan Eig. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35 (688p) ISBN 978-0-374-27929-5
Martin Luther King Jr. went beyond meek nonviolence into far-reaching radicalism, according to this sweeping biography. Eig (Ali: A Life) gives a rousing recap of King’s triumphs as a civil rights leader—the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott, his “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 march on Washington, the 1965 procession from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.—as well as his despondency later in the 1960s as his anti-poverty campaigns struggled and Black energies drifted from nonviolent protest toward armed militance and “Black power.” Contesting accusations by Malcolm X and others that King was an “Uncle Tom,” Eig casts him as a revolutionary who reshaped the South with his integrationism, became an outspoken opponent of the Vietnam War despite losing political support and drawing the ire of the FBI, and developed a deep critique of systemic racism and economic inequality that called for reparations for slavery and a guaranteed minimum income. King is no saint in this complex, nuanced portrait—his plagiarism and womanizing are probed in detail—but Eig’s evocative prose ably conveys his bravery, charisma, and spell-binding oratory (rallying the Montgomery boycotters, “he called out in his deep, throbbing voice, and the people responded, the noise of the crowd rolling and pounding in waves that shook the building as he built to a climax”). It’s an enthralling reappraisal that confirms King’s relevance to today’s debates over racial justice. Agent: David Black, David Black Literary. (May)

Master Slave Husband Wife: An American Love Story

Ilyon Woo. Simon & Schuster, $29.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-5011-9105-3
Woo (The Great Divorce) seamlessly knits together an in-depth portrait of antebellum America and a thrilling account of an enslaved couple’s escape to freedom. In 1848, William and Ellen Craft, a dark-skinned cabinet maker and his wife, a light-skinned maid owned by her half-sister, escaped from Macon, Ga., to Philadelphia by hiding in plain sight. Ellen disguised herself as a young and wealthy, yet sickly, white gentleman, while William posed as her servant. Traveling more than 1,000 miles in four days on steamships, carriages, and trains, the couple experienced close calls (William’s employer searched their train before it left Macon, but did not recognize Ellen in her disguise and ran out of time before reaching William in the “Negro car”) and amusing ironies (two young women accompanying their elderly father swooned over Ellen). After the Crafts reached New England and joined the abolitionist lecture circuit, their former enslavers tried to reclaim them through the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, but the couple fled to Canada and then England. Throughout, Woo expertly portrays the gruesome details of slave auctions; the rigors of the antislavery lecture circuit, where protestors subjected speakers to the “abolitionist baptism” of “rotten eggs and fist-sized stones”; and the exploits of antislavery activists including William Still and Mifflin Wistar Gibbs. This novelistic history soars. Agent: Julie Barer, the Book Group. (Jan.)

Correction: An earlier version of this review incorrectly identified the author as a historian.

Liliana’s Invincible Summer: A Sister’s Search for Justice

Cristina Rivera Garza. Hogarth, $28 (320p) ISBN 978-0-593-24409-8
In this gut-wrenching blend of memoir and reportage, Rivera Garza (No One Will See Me Cry), a Hispanic studies professor at the University of Houston, investigates her younger sister Liliana’s 1990 murder by an abusive ex-boyfriend, who remains at large. Placing her sister’s death in the context of the femicide crisis in Mexico, Rivera Garza interweaves startling facts and statistics (an average of 10 women are killed per day in Mexico) with lyrical meditations on her family life and Liliania’s efforts to break away from her obsessive high school boyfriend, Ángel González Ramos. Liliana’s oft-repeated desire not to be left alone haunts the narrative, as do Rivera Garza’s guilt and shame over her sister’s death. Documenting the meticulous detective work of recreating the years and months leading up to Liliana’s murder, Rivera Garcia interweaves case files and newspaper accounts with excerpts from Liliana’s teenage diary, where the early warning signs about Ángel appear. Thoughout, Rivera Garza laments how she and Liliana’s friends lacked “the insight, the language, that would allow us to identify the signs of danger,” and explores “how patriarchy deforms and hurts men, as much as it does women.” This piercing remembrance hits home. (Feb.)